Wigdor LLP represents Blueprint Capital Advisors, LLC (“Blueprint”), a minority-owned investment advisory and portfolio management services firm founded by Jacob Walthour, Jr. and Carrie Pickett, in a lawsuit alleging race discrimination and use of trade secrets against the State of New Jersey, Department of the Treasury, Division of Investment (“DOI”), BlackRock Alternative Advisors (“BlackRock”) and Cliffwater, LLC.
As set forth in the Complaint, Blueprint spent years developing the proprietary FAIR program, an innovative and lucrative investment program aimed at offering pension funds a structural alternative that would reduce fees compared to those typically charged by the largest hedge funds and alternative managers.
When Blueprint introduced the FAIR program to the DOI in May 2015, as alleged, the DOI immediately recognized the millions of dollars in fee savings to the State that the FAIR program could produce and committed to investing upwards of $500 million with Blueprint. However, under the guise of “due diligence,” the DOI demanded that Blueprint share its proprietary research, business plans and various other components of the investment strategy underlying the FAIR program, according to the Complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that the DOI and Cliffwater then sent Blueprint’s confidential and proprietary information about the FAIR program to investment giant BlackRock, which has an overwhelmingly white executive management and workforce. As alleged, in July 2016, the DOI publicly announced its decision to implement the FAIR program with BlackRock, which was substantially identical to the program Blueprint spent years creating.
After the announcement, the then-Director of the DOI allegedly conceded Defendants’ discriminatory animus to Blueprint, stating that New Jersey was “not a fan of investing with women- and minority-owned firms,” and “If the [State Investment Council] knew Blueprint was a minority-owned firm, they would not approve” of any investment. Blueprint was also told that it should scrub any reference to its minority-owned status from reports if it wanted to succeed with future investment from New Jersey, as alleged. BlackRock even replaced its African American representative on the DOI relationship with a white employee before finalizing the deal, according to the Complaint.
Moreover, as alleged, Blueprint repeatedly complained to New Jersey that it had been the victim of unlawful discrimination because of its status as a business founded by African Americans. Not only did these complaints fall on deaf ears, but the DOI responded by imposing excessively punitive and retaliatory terms on its investment of other capital with Blueprint in a transparent attempt to force Blueprint to abandon its relationship with New Jersey, as alleged.
Blueprint Capital Advisors, one of the few U.S. investment firms founded by African-Americans, sued New Jersey for racial bias, saying officials told it that the state’s pension was averse to hiring money-management firms owned by minorities https://t.co/6s4j0iSf0Z
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) June 24, 2020
Statement from Lawrence M. Pearson, Partner at Wigdor LLP:
“Blueprint was exploited by the Defendants for its innovative and advantageous business concept, and its status as a Black-owned firm was admitted to be the cause of this injustice. As the Complaint makes clear, Blueprint was cast aside for BlackRock, whose own CEO has acknowledged its serious shortcomings regarding diversity, despite Blueprint having first delivered to New Jersey DOI the same advantageous terms and investment program. Through their alleged actions, BlackRock and the New Jersey DOI both betrayed the public trust and did their best to hobble a promising minority-owned business.”
“Black-Owned Investment Firm Accuses NJ, BlackRock Of Bias”
June 23, 2020